7/31/2014 Pt Reyes Light: Common law jury finds oyster closure illegal

Common law jury finds oyster closure illegal


Something unusual happened Monday night at the fire station meeting room in Point Reyes: citizens actually volunteered for jury duty. Drakes Bay Oyster Company supporters took the law into their own hands in a civil trial. After 22 minutes of deliberation, the jury of 10 locals—including Dave Brast, Melinda Leithold, Chloe Cook, Jude Vasconcellos, Linda Peterson and Loretta Murphy, the farm’s manager and a plaintiff in another lawsuit—returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the Lunnys, finding their operating lease should be renewed and transferred back to the state to allow the oyster farm to continue operating. Seated around a circle of tables under a state flag pinned to the wall that repeatedly fell during the hour-long trial, the jury listened to testimony from scientist and agricultural consultant Jeff Creque, Oysterzone blogger Jane Gyorgy and Tomales Bay Association president Ken Fox. The legal teams for the government and the Lunnys were duly noticed, but neither showed. A certified court reporter recorded a transcript, and someone dropped the decision off at the Civic Center the next day. The trial’s constitutional justifications were dubious at best—relying on the Seventh Amendment, which normally does not apply to suits against the federal government—and its administrative proceedings even worse—a biased jury, a one-sided trial. But the evening gathering gave a small group of supporters a chance they’ve been lacking until now: a chance to reclaim some control after lawyers, judges and officials distant to the West Marin imagination wielded it for the last 19 months, and a chance to air their emotions over losing their local farm. Perhaps the most popular witness Monday night was Rev. Robert Weldy, the priest at St. Columba’s Church in Inverness. He didn’t come with exhibits, letters or reports. No one asked him any questions. He spoke about going to the oyster farm on Sunday and witnessing the families picnicking, kids and pets running around. He said Drakes Bay Oyster Company was the happiest place on earth, better than Disneyland. The jury liked that, and they voted his way.
For the transcript, click on the link below:
For the Exhibits, click on the link below:
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